F1000 Recommends Bio4Energy Tool for Cell-trait Quantification

Urs Fischer Photo by Anna StromUrs Fischer talks up some hybrid aspen plants in a greenhouse at the Umeå Plant Science Centre at Umeå University in Sweden. Photo by Anna Strom©.

A study by Bio4Energy researchers and partners was recommended by F1000 faculty as an important article in biology. The Faculty of 1000, or F1000, is an international group of academics—faculty members—who have tasked themselves with identifying and recommending the best research output in biology and medicine when it comes to peer-reviewed scientific articles.

The study by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and others gives an overview of a new package of analytical tools for quantifying large amounts of cellular traits, called phenotypes, in plants such as trees. Using the tools, researchers will be able to extract quantitative data from raw images obtained using state-of-the-art fluorescent microscopy. This has not previously been possible and the researchers expect this feature to speed up the process where large amounts of quantitative information need to be assessed. Hall and Fischer are part of the research platform Bio4Energy Feedstock and affiliated with Umeå University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, respectively.

The F1000 faculty member making the recommendation, David G. Oppenheimer of the University of Florida at Gainsville, U.S.A. stated in his motivation:

"The authors' method allows segmentation of images obtained by laser scanning confocal microscopy (or other optical sectioning methods of fluorescently labelled material) followed by assignment of cell types using the Random Forest machine learning algorithm.... I expect that this package will be useful for large-scale quantitative trait loci mapping projects or any projects that require quantification of cellular phenotypes for thousands of individuals."

Read more: F1000 Recommends Bio4Energy Tool for Cell-trait Quantification

Biochar as Water Treatment Agent in New Bio4Energy Project - Video

StinaJansson 316Today Stina Jansson will be giving a public lecture on her reserach project Agricultural Residues for Water Purification in Africa.

Can local biomass waste be used to help solve the problem of polluted waste water in developing countries where water is a scarce resource? Bio4Energy scientists think so. Today one of them is taking her project on the matter to an audience of café goers downtown Umeå, in northern Sweden.

"Water scarcity is a huge problem in many parts of the world and it is not getting better. In many places they use waste water in a way that we in the developing countries would never do. Sewage water is used in agriculture [for irrigation] and we know that the crops take up toxic substances, which people proceed to eat… It affects the health of those who are already vulnerable", said This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.of the platform Bio4Energy Environment and Nutrient Recycling.

Working with local stakeholders in Tanzania and Morocco, Jansson and her team are going to test whether by using simple stoves built from mud or manure, local agricultural waste can be carbonised and turned into biochar. The carbonised residues will be evaluated both as a soil amendment, sucking pollution from irrigation water hitting the soil and as an agent that captures toxic substances in simple water-filtering appliances.

Read more: Biochar as Water Treatment Agent in New Bio4Energy Project - Video

Clean-burning Cooking Solutions, Electricity, Being Developed for Africa

The world needs clean-burning stoves for use in countryside households in third world, the Umeå Renewable Energy Meeting (UREM) 2016 heard today. Many such households, for instance in Sub-Saharan Africa, rely on burning of untreated wood or agricultural residues inside the home and in simple appliances with few or no checks on polluting emissions.

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Although international initiatives such as the Global Cookstove Alliance have made great strides in the right direction, the effect of emissions on human health of particulate matter and soot are still not well understood, Bio4Energy researcher This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. told the UREM conference. Boman leads a cross-disciplinary project in which Bio4Energy researchers from Umeå University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences collaborate with the Stockholm Environment Institute and African non-governmental organisations, of which the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya, to evaluate current so-called clean-burning cookstoves and develop medium-sized facilities for electricity production in the Kenyan countryside.

Read more: Clean-burning Cooking Solutions, Electricity, Being Developed for Africa

250 Students Helped Kick off Conference on Energy 'From the Sun'

Today 250 students in grade eight met a host of scientific researchers who investigate different aspects of energy "from the sun". Umeå University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences hosted the event to kick off an Umeå Renewable Energy Meeting (UREM), which is in fact an annual conference which brings speakers from across the world to northern Sweden and, this year, some 200 registered participants.

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Apart from listening to popular science lectures, one of which by Bio4Energy’s outgoing programme manager This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.entitled 'The Forest Is Not Only Trees', the students interacted with the researchers by discussing renewable raw materials and carrying out simple scientific experiments.

Read more: 250 Students Helped Kick off Conference on Energy 'From the Sun'

Change of Leadership in Bio4Energy: From One Chemist to Another - Video

DB SM 10216 300pxDan Boström (left) is Bio4Energy's new programme manager from 15 February 2016, taking over from Stellan Marklund. Photo by Bio4Energy.

Today Bio4Energy founder and long-standing programme manager This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., will hand over the leadership of the research environment to his professor colleague at Umeå UniversityThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Both are chemists and part of Bio4Energy's research platform dedicated to checking the environmental credentials of bioenergy operations and, notably, combustion and gasification of biomass for the purpose of making heat, electricity and fuels.

While professor Marklund is widely seen to have led the research environment from strength to strength, representing Bio4Energy in national and international fora and stayed in his position for longer than planned, finally he is about to take his retirement. The incoming programme manager Boström, for his part, comes equipped with about 30 years of experience in being an inorganic chemist, having managed people and funds for about two thirds of that time, for the last 15 last years at TEC-Lab of the UmU Department of Applied Physics and Electronics.

Read more: Change of Leadership in Bio4Energy: From One Chemist to Another - Video

Report on New Method to Map Biomass Properties Receives Praise, but Author Warns Large-scale Testing, Industry Cooperation, Needed

Mikael Thyrel Photo by Anna StromBio4Energy reseracher Mikael Thyrel has been acknowledged for his work by the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry. Photo by Anna Strom©.The composition of different types of biomass materials varies widely and may even vary within, say, a single species of wood. This is generally seen as an impediment to the large-scale roll out of biorefinery—meaning industrial operations designed to make a cascade of bio-based products such as biofuels, "green" chemicals or bio-based starting materials for products—since each biorefinery process may have to be adapted to biomass materials from a single source. This is especially true for lignocellulosic biomass, meaning biomass from wood or inedible parts of plants.

Thus, knowledge about quick and easy ways to judge the properties of each type of biomass is high in demand. Bio4Energy postdoctoral fellow This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. has focused his research on such methods, in the pre-treatment step of the biomass intended for use in biorefinery processes. Using sophisticated X-ray fluorescence and near-infrared spectroscopy, he found that the two techniques may be used to gauge the amount of non-desirable ash-forming elements or contaminants and to single out wood chips for their content of value-added extractive substances, respectively.

While the conclusions of Thyrel's work so far are based on testing on a laboratory scale, this has not stopped the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry (KSLA) deeming it useful and novel enough to grant him an award for "best PhD thesis 2016" for the report in which he sums it all up:  Spectroscopic Characterisation of Lignocellulosic Biomass. Thyrel is to receive a diploma from the hands of the Swedish prince Carl Philip, 28 January in Stockholm and has received a personal grant.

"As the [biorefinery] industry is trying to start up new methods are needed for the characterisation of biomass. Biomass is heterogeneous in nature. Especially targeted processes for producing chemicals are rather sensitive [to impurities in the biomass]. One batch of wood chips does not look the same as the other. We have to find a way to characterise them so that the polluting elements can be removed or handled", said Thyrel, who works at the Department of Forest Biomaterials and Technology of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

Read more: Report on New Method to Map Biomass Properties Receives Praise, but Author Warns Large-scale...

Conditioning with Reducing Agents Shown to Raise Yields in Advanced Biofuel Production

CM slurry AS231115Carlos Martín and Bio4Energy colleagues have developed a one-step biomass conditioning-and-conversion process which could bring cost-efficiency to cellulosic ethanol production. Photo by Bio4Energy.Bio4Energy researchers have invented a process which could bring greater certainty of cost efficiency to industrial biorefineries that choose to base their operations on lignocellulosic input materials such as wood from spruce or pine trees.

Currently the U.S.A. and Italy are among few countries in the world to host industrial biorefineries for the production of ethanol based on cellulose via the biochemical conversion route using industrial enzymes and yeast. However, these biorefineries mainly use agricultural residue as feedstock in their operations.

While advanced bio-based production is seen as a great opportunity in several richly forested countries in the boreal belt, industrial operators there are up against a practical problem. A large part of the Canadian, Swedish and Finnish forest resource is made up of coniferous tree species whose woody composition is highly complex and requires harsh treatment before rendering its cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin components in separate parts, which is a requirement in most bio-based production. This harsh pre-treatment means toxic elements are left in the biomass slurry resulting from the process, whose impact must be reduced for efficiency to be achieved in the conversion step to fuels and chemicals.

Read more: Conditioning with Reducing Agents Shown to Raise Yields in Advanced Biofuel Production

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